This Week In Cinema: January 20-26, 2013

the queen of versailles

If I had the money to build a 90,000 square foot mansion, I’d build myself a cozy four bedroom house (with a theater room being my one excess of course) and save the rest, but I’m just crazy I guess!

A nice mixture of movies this week,

Staplerfahrer Klaus – Der Erste Arbeitstag (Forklift Driver Klaus: The First Day On The Job, 2000, Stefan Prehn & Jörg Wagner, Germany) ***1/2

At first Staplerfahrer Klaus – Der Erste Arbeitstag is funny in a fairly innocuous fashion. Then people start losing limbs, heads, and in the most extreme cases speared by a forklift or eviscerated. Once that happens Staplerfahrer Klaus – Der Erste Arbeitstag moves from kind of funny to absurdly hilarious. It’s not long, it doesn’t wear out its welcome, and by the time the film has finished I had laughed as much as I probably should have. I’m not talking small knowing laughs either, Staplerfahrer Klaus – Der Erste Arbeitstag produced more than a couple of deep guttural laughs from me. Staplerfahrer Klaus – Der Erste Arbeitstag is smart, witty, and funny in a very cheeky way, definitely a film that cinephiles should set aside nine minutes to check out.

Irréversible (2002, Gaspar Noé, France) **

I know that just about every single person who sees Irréversible gets up in arms over the rape scene and the violence that follows. Yes, that scene is brutal, graphic, and intense in an uncomfortable way. However, my issue with Irréversible is that Gasper Noé needs to keep his camera still more often. I found the moments when his camera settled down and focused on the characters to be the most effective. All of the swirling camera bits were nothing more than nausea inducing. That issue aside, Irréversible is on the same level as Memento, a film that has to rely on gimmick because its actual story is pretty weak. I didn’t glean any deeper meaning to Irréversible, although I am sure that many others have. What I watched was a film that lacked a compelling story, or characters, but had a few visually charged moments of intensity that helped move it past something as bland as Memento. Still, a gimmick is a gimmick, and Irréversible’s many flaws are not hidden by its gimmick.

The Queen Of Versailles (2012, Lauren Greenfield, Denmark/Netherlands/United Kingdom/United States Of America) ***1/2

There’s a certain pun that comes to mind regarding the characters in The Queen Of Versailles, but I’m going to spare you such nonsense. But, as overused as I’m sure that phrase has been in the reviews, there is truth to the main characters in The Queen Of Versailles, embodying the idea of wasting away their money. However, the key to Lauren Greenfield’s documentary is that it shows the human side to David and Jacqueline Siegel. Yes, the film shows them wasting money, spending frivolously, and being completely out of touch with the common man. At the same time The Queen Of Versailles shows them struggling to realize how far gone their situation is, how they are seeking to touch base with their humanity while ensconcing themselves in lies and half truths. The duality of the main characters that The Queen Of Versailles presents is why their downfall isn’t a joyous affair, but a bittersweet result of excess. The bittersweet truth of the film is its main selling point and why it is such a well made documentary.

Bakushû (Early Summer, 1951, Yasujirô Ozu, Japan) ***1/2

There is definitely a theme of generational change to be found in Bakushû. However, that’s not what I want to focus on. I think people are focusing too much on the heavy themes of Bakushû when they write/talk about the film. What struck me the most about Bakushû was how funny and playful the film managed to be in spite of its heavier content. From the very start Yasujirô Ozu established a playful tone that results in plenty of subtly zany comedy. When I think about Bakushû I know that I will be taking away the light touch shown by Ozu-san. I wasn’t expecting such a light touch or such a playful approach from Ozu-san, but it was there and I found it delightful.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011, Bill Condon, United States Of America) *

I wanted to write a two word review of this film, “Fucking Bollocks!” But, as unbelievable as it may be, I do have some type of journalistic standards. Since I can’t be witty and short I’ll give it to you how I see The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1. This is a terrible movie, in every regard. The series had actually been progressing on a technical level, but this entry marks a step backwards. The effects look really bad, the lighting is always off, and the framing is some of the worst I’ve seen in a long time. The acting is piss poor, and I’ll tell you what, I’m not sure if any actor in the cast of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 knows how to convey any sort of emotion, let alone realistic emotion. But, the number one reason why this is a terrible film is because nothing happens until the final five minutes of the film. Everything before that five minute stretch is a boring grab bag of nothingness. It’s not like the final five minutes is any great improvement, unless you consider turning one of your main characters from a whiny punk into a whiny pedophile an improvement? Bella is still a worthless character who can’t make a single decision for herself and sits in the corner while her life is ruled by others. Jacob is still annoying, and now a pedophile. Everyone else is too boring to take the time to write about. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 is the worst entry in what has proven this far to be a terrible series of films.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012, Peter Jackson, New Zealand/United States Of America) ***1/2

There are certainly flaws to be found in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The biggest compliment that I can give this film is that I didn’t much care about the flaws. I recognized them, I knew they were there, but they weren’t large enough nor were there enough flaws for them to affect my enjoyment of the film. It was great to be back in Middle Earth again, to spend time with wonderful characters and an amazing landscape. To me the ultimate strength of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is that it delivers a compelling, and often funny, story, but it does so while sending my imagination into overdrive. I loved seeing all of the new creations, the new landscapes of Middle Earth that I was allowed to explore, and the characters I already knew appearing again. It’s not perfect, but The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a pretty great film. Oh, and that 48fps business didn’t negatively affect the film at all, if anything I thought Peter Jackson’s film looked terrific.

Wrap-Up:

A slow start to the week, but it ended up being a week full of pretty great, and pretty interesting films. It was a tight race for the top spot, but the movie that takes home the top spot provides further evidence of my changing movie tastes. The Queen Of Versailles takes home movie of the week honors. That’s right, I picked a documentary over two dramas I really liked and a very funny short, how’s that for a change from how I viewed documentaries a few years back? Until next week, watch more movies!

Cheers,
Bill

3 responses to “This Week In Cinema: January 20-26, 2013

  1. Oh shit, I saw Breaking Dawn Pt. 1 too on Friday. Oh man, that was so bad but a lot of it was unintentionally hilarious. I have to give the franchise credit for the fact that it takes itself so seriously, they don’t know how bad they are. I wish it had gotten more campier. There’s a scene where Bella drinks blood for the first time. I would’ve loved for Bella to say… “where have you been all of my life?” She drinks more blood and says, “I want more!!” and cues Can’s “I Want More”.

  2. I think the charm, or fun if you will, is due to how seriously the franchise takes itself. It’s very ridiculous, yet at every turn the franchise acts like it’s life or death in cinematic form.

  3. Pingback: Postulating & Pontificating: Streaming Wasteland! | Bill's Movie Emporium

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s